Reading 1 2 COR 4:7-15
Responsorial Psalm PS 126:1BC-2AB, 2CD-3, 4-5, 6
Gospel MT 20:20-28
“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained, perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not abandoned, struck down, but not destroyed.”
This morning’s readings ya’ll. They hit me. Which I guess is a good sign, all things considered. Scripture should affect us; it should draw us to take action. When I graduated from Franciscan University I remember a line that my favorite Professor told us on our last day of classes, “When doing good works for the Kingdom and working for the Church, prepare to be persecuted by evil, prepare to experience suffering and be prepared to fight the good fight. Promise me, that you will never give up.”
Have you ever felt the temptation to give up? Not so much in the “this is the end”, soul-crushing, life-altering kind of way (though perhaps you’ve experienced that, too), but in the more subtle “changing your path because this isn’t working out” or “I’m just tired of trying so hard and still feeling stuck” sense? Me too.
Sometimes in the face of suffering and challenge, it can be tempting to just leave whatever the situation we find ourselves in is before things get completely unbearable or just too messy. We can feel the temptation, albeit a tiny little pull, to just stop on the sideline before it becomes obvious that we’re in over our head, or at least that we feel like we are. It happens in those moments of our lives when we begin to feel the weight and pressure of our situation or vocation or relationship and look in the wrong direction for a solution. We can be tempted to look for comfort and release rather than a source of endurance and understanding, and so instead of keeping our eyes on Jesus, we start looking around at the waves engulfing us…like Peter on the water in the story from the Gospel of Matthew, and we start to sink.
When we find ourselves facing this kind of temptation that tells us to give up, that we ought to just reach for the side of the pool instead of moving forward, we can find solace by praying the very words of Peter from this Gospel story on the water that was really his cry for help. We can pray with steady assurance, “Lord, save me!” (Matt. 14:30)…from myself, from my doubts and insecurities, from this temptation to give up and undervalue my strength and your grace, from my fear. Don’t disqualify yourself and give in to the crushing waters that tempt us to submit to sinking below the surface. If we do that, we risk missing out on what God wishes for us because we pull ourselves from the race too early on, thinking it will be too much. When we give in to the temptation to self-disqualify, we rob ourselves of the chance for God to supply our weakness with His grace and make evident redemption through us.
If, instead we choose to respond to the temptations to quit by praying into the face of them, then we will not. We will not be disqualified, and the race won’t be over. Instead, we’ll likely find the strength to keep going and perhaps hear Jesus’ voice resound in our hearts once we’ve braved the struggle saying,
“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31)
Keep swimming forward, keep your eyes up ahead, and remember Christ is with you. There’s much more than a trophy on the line, and you are much stronger than you realize.